Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Hornberger’s Blog, September 2004


September 30, 2004

Our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., is back in the news.

The city has just agreed to use its taxing power to plunder and loot D.C. residents to line the pockets of the baseball owners who have graciously agreed to bring the Montreal Expos to D.C.

Never mind that that America’s premier “model city” has schools that are in shambles, streets whose potholes are the largest in the nation, and drugs everywhere, not to mention that it’s also the murder capital of the nation. Hey, all we need is a little more socialism in the form of a government-owned stadium and all will be right with the world.

And speaking of D.C. being the murder capital of the nation, someone might be tempted to ask, “How can that be? That’s impossible! Guns are illegal in Washington. Therefore, it’s just not possible that murders take place there.”

As the old adage goes, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. Duh! In other words, people who are going to violate a murder law are not likely to obey a gun-control law. Duh! So, all that the D.C. gun-control law has done is prevent nonviolent people from defending themselves from the violent people. And when violent people are absolutely certain that nonviolent people don’t have a weapon, the former are more likely to do bad things to the latter — especially with guns that have been banned by a gun-control law that they don’t give a hoot about. Duh!

Unfortunately, all too many D.C. officials just can’t see that basic, simple truth. Which is why they are so vehemently objecting to the House of Representatives voting to repeal the D.C. gun-control law.

Moreover, even when they start to realize that murderers, robbers, and rapists don’t have a lot of respect for gun-control laws, they shift in a new direction by claiming that the real problem is that people are able to import guns into D.C. from Virginia and Maryland. Which means — you guessed it! — they want to impose the same type of gun control in Virginia and Maryland that they have in D.C. But then, guns will be imported into Virginia and Maryland from North Carolina and West Virginia. Well, you get the point, right?

Oh, and did I mention that D.C. is one of the biggest drug zones in the United States, despite the DEA’s and D.C. police’s 30-year vow to make it a “drug-free” zone? Hey, if they can’t keep drugs out of our nation’s capital (or even federal prisons), what’s that say about their 3-decade effort to keep drugs out of the United States?

There’s nothing like D.C.’s socialism, interventionism, and gun control to help remind us how much we have rejected the principles of freedom that our American ancestors believed in.

September 29, 2004

A Yemeni court has just sentenced two men to death and four others to prison for the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000. As bad as the judicial system in Yemen must be in terms of due process of law, the men ought to be thanking their lucky stars they were arrested by Yemeni officials rather than by Pentagon officials. Otherwise, they would have received life sentences without even the semblance of a trial or execution after a sham, kangaroo-court proceeding known as a U.S. military tribunal operating out of Cuba.

Meanwhile, after incarcerating accused terrorist Yaser Hamdi for more than two years, after denying him all semblance of due process of law, including right to counsel, and after arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Pentagon had the unfettered power to incarcerate Hamdi forever as an “unlawful combatant” in the “war on terrorism,” U.S. officials have now decided to release him in Saudi Arabia entirely rather than charge him with terrorism. How about them apples? But hey, as a condition of the deal, Hamdi has agreed to no longer participate in terrorism! Isn’t that wonderful? Doesn’t that make you feel safer? What are they going to do if he violates the agreement — sue him?

Hamdi’s release has now caused John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban” to seek a reduction in his 20-year sentence on the ground that he didn’t do anything different than Hamdi.

Do you ever get the feeling that this entire war on terrorism is just one more fiasco of a federal program, just like all the others?

September 28, 2004

In the Drug War News section of our FFF Email Update today, we have links to two news articles that implicitly focus on the type of pro-drug-war mindset that has guided the war on drugs for some 30 years.

DEA: Meth Labs, Crime on the Rise

Experts: Is Drug War Worth the Fight?

The first article describes the increasing violent crime rate, including burglary and homicide, and the increased use of drugs. This causes DEA agent Harold Willis to conclude that the use of drugs is causing people to commit the violent crimes. Willis says that the problem is that people get high on drugs, which then causes them to go out and burglarize people’s homes and also commit murder. He then suggests that the solution is increased vigilance and harsher sentences.

Only there one big problem with DEA Agent Willis’ analysis — It just ain’t so!

After all, most everyone knows that alcoholism is an enormous problem in America, yet how many winos are burglarizing people’s homes and murdering people because they get drunk? Moreover, punishments for drug crimes have become increasingly severe for the last 30 years, and people have been constantly exhorted to make their neighborhoods “drug-free zones,” and yet the result has been a constant increase in both drugs and violent crimes.

Also, no doubt DEA Agent Willis is aware that 30 years ago DEA agents were saying the exact same things he’s saying today. Those agents are now retiring with fat government pensions, being replaced by younger agents who are expected to mouth the same tired diatribes to people who are unaware that the exact same drug-war nonsense was being spouted by DEA agents three decades ago.

The simple truth is that drug laws, not drugs, lead to violent crime, just as alcohol laws, not alcohol, led to violent crime. (Does the name Al Capone come to mind?) Drug laws make the price of drugs exorbitantly high, which then induces drug addicts to burglarize, rob, and steal in order to secure the money to pay for the higher prices. Drug laws also attract unsavory characters — i.e., drug gangs and drug lords, just as alcohol laws did.

As an aside, the violence associated with drug laws then lead to calls for gun control, just more evidence that government intervention inevitably leads to more interventions, a phenomenon that the economist Ludwig von Mises observed many years ago.

Thus, there is one — and only one — real solution to the drug war and all the violence it has spawned: Ending the war by legalizing drugs, just as Americans did with the alcohol and alcohol war. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of judges and law enforcement officers who are courageously recognizing that, such as Colorado Sheriff Bill Masters who is quoted in the Drug War Worth the Fight? article.

Not only would legalization cause people to treat drug addiction as they do alcohol addiction, it would also put people like DEA Agent Willis into the private sector doing productive work rather than engaging a Sisyphus campaign in the hopes of retiring with a fat government pension. But then again, maybe it’s the hope of that big fat government pension that has caused DEA agents like Harold Willis to stick with their story for the past 30 years of drug-war failure, death, and destruction.

September 27, 2004

Once again, federal rule in Iraq provides an example of the benefits of having the Constitution protect us from federal officials. A “senior U.S. official,” who prefers to remain anonymous (surprise, surprise), is saying that Saddam Hussein’s trial won’t start this year and maybe not even next year because of “deteriorating” security conditions in “liberated” Iraq.

In other words, never mind about the importance of a speedy trial as part of according an accused person due process of law. For that matter, never mind about assistance of counsel, given that the Pentagon won’t let Saddam meet with his lawyers. Never mind about habeas corpus, which the Pentagon won’t permit in Iraq. And never mind about independent judges and jury trials. Never mind about all that. In mind of federal officials, those are all just constitutional “technicalities” that have to be followed in the United States because of that outmoded, 19th-century, horse-and-buggy, breathing and flexible document known as the Constitution, which the U.S. Supreme Court enforces from time to time. Americans ought to be thanking their lucky stars for the Constitution. Otherwise, there’s no doubt that the Pentagon would be doing to us what they’re doing to people in Iraq—and that U.S. soldiers would be complying with orders here just as willingly as they’re doing so in Iraq. After all, don’t forget that the military is already doing it here in the cases of Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, both U.S. citizens. Let’s just hope security conditions here don’t continue to deteriorate too.

September 25, 2004

Turkey’s bid to join the European Union is in hot water due to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen’s insistence that Turkey make adultery a criminal offense.

No doubt that U.S. conservatives would come down on Erdogen’s side, given their proclivity for using the force of the state to legislate morality and responsibility with respect to nonviolent behavior. (Do drug laws come to mind?) Can’t you just hear the Heritage Foundation exclaiming, “Oh, my gosh, if you’re not in favor of criminalizing adultery (and drugs), then that means that you favor adultery (and drugs)!”

What is the great God-given gift of free will if not the right to choose wrongly or irresponsibly, so long as a person’s conduct is peaceful? And as a libertarian minister friend of mine once put it, some sins are much too important to be put in the hands of the government.
September 24, 2004

One of the important points that should not be missed in the Bush-Kerry hullabaloo over Iraq is that the deaths of 2,726 innocent people on 9/11 cannot morally justify the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people in Iraq.

And that’s exactly what supporters of the Iraq War are trying to do. Their argument boils down to this: “9/11 was a great tragedy for America. Those people killed our people. When someone’s trying to kill me, I’m going to go kill him first. That’s why we needed to invade Iraq. Military casualties are part of war. And so is the collateral damage of civilian deaths.”

Except for one not-so-minor moral problem: The Iraqi people had nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing. That means that the estimated 50,000 or so Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi civilians that the U.S. government has killed in this invasion and occupation were as innocent as the people in the World Trade Center.

Point: The killing of 2,726 innocent Americans on 9/11 cannot, under any conceivable circumstances, be used to morally justify the killing of 50,000 (or any, for that matter) innocent people in Iraq, any more than the government’s killing of innocent people at Waco could morally justify Timothy McVeigh’s killing of innocent people in Oklahoma City.

Another point: When innocent people are killed, people get angry, especially people whose children are among those killed. Consider, for example, this article from the New York Times about an American mother who lost her son, a U.S. serviceman, in Iraq, who is now being investigated by the Secret Service. Anyone who thinks that foreigners don’t feel the same pain when their children are lost is living in la-la land. In the wake of the brutal sanctions against Iraq that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, we got the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Why should anyone be surprised that President Bush has announced that his “war on terrorism” is endless in view of the anger and hatred that is certain to arise from the killing of thousands of more innocent Iraqis in a wrongful war of aggression against that nation?

September 23, 2004

President Bush’s recent cozy meeting with Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf pretty much sums up how Bush views the concept of “freedom.”

Don’t forget that after U.S. forces failed to find Saddam Hussein’s much-vaunted WMD after Bush had used such WMD to terrify the American people into supporting his invasion of Iraq, Bush said that his real reason for invading and waging a war of aggression on an innocent country was so that the Iraqi people would finally be “free” (well, at least those Iraqis who didn’t die in the invasion).

Thus, today, Bush says because Saddam Hussein is out of power, the Iraqi people are now “free.” But his chummy relationship with Musharraf says everything as to how he defines the concept of “freedom.”

Musharaff is an unelected army general who took power in a coup and who has refused to permit national elections in Pakistan. And as the Washington Post reported a few days ago,

“It’s not suprising that Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, intends to break his commitment to retire as army chief of staff by the end of this year and thereby restore civilian rule to Pakistan five years after he led a coup against an elected government. After all, Mr. Musharraf has betrayed nearly every promise he has made about democracy and social reform in Pakistan. What’s interesting is his timing: The general chose to reveal his intentions just days before his planned meeting in New York tomorrow with President Bush.”

Did Bush lecture Musharaff about the virtues of “freedom” for the Pakistani people during his recent meeting with him? Of course not. And the reason is because in Bush’s eyes, the Pakistani people are “free.” Why? Because Bush’s test on whether foreigners are “free” is determined by whether their dictator is a friend and ally of the United States.

And that’s exactly why Bush now feels that the Iraqi people are “free” — because Iyad Allawi, who used to be on the CIA’s payroll, is now in charge of Iraq. Never mind that he’s never been elected … that he’s got the power to shut down the press and has exercised such power … that there is no elected legislature and therefore that he rules by dictatorial decree … that there are no civil liberties in Iraq, including habeas corpus, due process, and right to counsel … that there is no religious liberty in the cities that are controlled by insurgents … that guns are confiscated … that there are curfews … and that Allawi has a much more powerful police force (the U.S. military) than Saddam did to suppress resistance to his regime. Never mind all that — Allawi is a friend and ally (read: puppet) of the U.S. government and that means that the Iraqi people are now “free.”

Of course, the same reasoning took place during those halcyon days when Saddam Hussein himself was a friend and ally of the U.S. government and was having cozy meetings with U.S. officials. During that period of time, the Reagan-Bush administration undoubtedly considered the Iraqi people to be “free” as well.

September 22, 2004

President Bush was back before the United Nations yesterday, explaining his decision to unilaterally declare and wage war on Iraq. This time, however, the president did not focus on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, UN inspections, disarming Saddam, etc. Instead, he focused on the benefits of using military force to bring democracy and freedom to foreign countries. Notably missing from the president’s speech was that a brutal, unelected U.S. puppet dictator now runs Iraq and that there is no freedom of speech and press there; no due process, habeas corpus, or other civil liberties; gun control and gun confiscation; curfews; military rule; and all the other normal attributes of dictatorship and tyranny. Also notably lacking was any mention of Russia’s recent decision to follow in America’s path by invading sovereign and independent countries as part of the “war on terrorism.”

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was correct to point out to President Bush that he had acted illegally in ordering the invasion of Iraq. Only the UN has the power to enforce its own resolutions, not the individual members of the UN. Thus President Bush’s prewar pronouncements that the United States was invading Iraq to enforce UN resolutions regarding Saddam’s (nonexistent) WMD lacked any legal foundation.

Annan could have also pointed out that Bush acted illegally under our own system of government, where the U.S. Constitution governs Bush’s conduct. The Constitution dictates that only the Congress, not the president, has the power to declare war. Thus, by declaring war on Iraq, the president violated the supreme law of the land — the law that we the people imposed on him. That itself made invasion and occupation of Iraq illegal.

While we’re on the subject of the law and the Constitution, let’s not forget that the other presidential candidate, John Kerry, also acted illegally and, in fact, quite cowardly by unconstitutionally delegating the power to declare war on Iraq to the president on the eve of the 2002 congressional elections. Kerry (and his congressional cohorts) should instead have said to the president, “The supreme law of the land dictates that we, not you, have the power to declare war. If you want us to do so, bring forth your request and your justification and evidence. Otherwise, if you yourself declare war on Iraq, you shall be impeached for violating the supreme law of the land, which you have sworn to uphold.”

September 21, 2004

Let’s face it — If the tables were turned with respect to Bush’s and Kerry’s military service, we’d be hearing totally opposite renditions from both Democrats and Republicans.

That is, let’s assume that Bush had joined the regular army rather than the National Guard and had volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he then received three Purple Hearts and medals for valor.

Let’s assume that Kerry, as a rich boy with a politically influential father, used political influence to gain a much-coveted slot in the National Guard at the height of the Vietnam War.

Wouldn’t the Repubs today be exclaiming: “John Kerry was a no-good, cowardly, draft dodger who used his daddy’s influence to avoid combat in Vietnam. He’s no different from those draft dodgers who went to Canada to avoid fighting for their country, for freedom, for America. George W. Bush, on the other hand, was a courageous war hero who was willing to be sent thousands of miles away to kill communists in order to protect America from a communist takeover”?

Wouldn’t the Dems be crying: “George W. Bush was a no-good hypocrite who went to Vietnam for political reasons, faked his injuries, killed innocent people, and defrauded the Pentagon into giving him medals. John Kerry valiantly served his country by joining the National Guard in order to protect America from a North Vietnamese communist air attack.”

Moreover, one of the main reasons that Republicans are so terrified that Kerry might be elected is that their distorted concept of patriotism places them in the discomforting position of having to blindly support a Democratic left-wing “commander in chief” who embraces socialism, militarism, and imperialism rather than a Republican one.

September 20, 2004

A few years ago, the supporters of public-school reform were expressing unbelievable ecstasy over the idea of charter schools. But as we repeatedly pointed out here at FFF, charter schools, like vouchers, were just another make-shift device to make the socialized education system work and were doomed to fail.

So it does not come to a surprise to us here at FFF that there has been a major disintegration of 60 charter schools in California, leaving parents scrambling to come up with alternative education methods for their children. As we have repeatedly pointed out over the years, socialism cannot work and will never work, no matter how many reforms and no matter who is doing the reforms. There are, of course, few better models of a socialist program than public (i.e., government) schooling.

Unfortunately, the result of the California charter school debacle will inevitably be people’s blaming the “free market” and “free enterprise,” no thanks to the fact that some advocates of vouchers, charter schools, and other public-school reforms often describe such reforms as “free enterprise.”

Ultimately, as we have repeatedly stated here at FFF, there is one — and only one — solution to the educational morass — the free market, which entails a total separation of school and state.

See, for example:

Throw D.C.’s Government Out of School” by Jacob G. Hornberger (1998):

“Every year, we are beset with new reform plans detailing how we can finally make D.C.’s public schooling system work. The latest plans call for vouchers, charter schools, new buildings, reading programs, testing, and the like. Despite the best intentions of the reformers, however, the reforms are doomed to fail. After all, let us remember that public schooling is just another government program. When was that last time you saw any of them succeed?”

It’s Time to Put Public Education Behind Us” by Richard M. Ebeling (2000):

“Charter schools, however, are not the same as independent, private schools. They remain part of the public-school system, especially since they still have to conform to a state-mandated curriculum and are mostly limited to hiring teachers certified by the state…. it is inevitable that over time, charter schools will become another vested interest determined to limit any innovations or new competitors that may threaten their enrollments and the tax dollars they receive from the state…. It’s time, therefore, to rethink the entire idea of public schooling in America. It’s time to consider whether it would be better to completely privatize the entire educational process from kindergarten through the Ph.D.”

Review of Separating School and State (by Sheldon Richman) by Pauline Eby (1995):

“To anyone who thinks that charter schools and tuition vouchers are among the better options for improving America’s public education system, Sheldon Richman’s proposals in Separating School and State: How to Liberate America’s Families may come as a shock. For Richman, the concept of public education (‘government schools,’ as he calls them) itself is the problem. Given this view, the ‘future of education, and of America as a free society, depends on the liberation of the American family from the grip of the public school.’”

Review of Separating School and State (by Sheldon Richman) by Booklist (1995):

“[Richman] concludes with criticism of such current proposed reforms as charter schools and vouchers and with envisioning the benefits of a free market in education and education without schools. This is educational polemics at their most bracing.”

September 18, 2004

The Greek people are waking up to what the Globe and Mail describes as “an Olympic hangover of truly gold-medal proportions” in the form of $10 billion that it cost the Greek government to sponsor the Olympics. The Olympic expenses amount to at least a fifth of the nation’s soaring debt. Total government debt amounts to about $75,000 per household in Greece.

Of course, there are those who would say, “But if governments didn’t fund the Olympics, the world would no longer have Olympics.” (It’s the same thing they say about Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, football stadiums, and other government-funded socialist programs.)

But not so! After all, don’t forget that the 1984 Olympics, which were held in the United States, were privately funded and actually made a profit of $215 million.

Of course, current-day advocates of unrestrained government spending here in the United States would undoubtedly claim that the Greek government’s Olympic spending binge actually “primes the pump” by producing jobs and prosperity for the Greek people. Try telling that to the Globe and Mail, which entitled its article “Olympics Put Greek Economy into Tailspin,” stated that the Olympic spending “could cripple the country’s economy for a generation,” and pointed out that Standard and Poor had lowered the country’s bond rating from “stable” to “negative.”

September 17, 2004

A majority of the U.S. House of Representatives is proposing to repeal D.C.’s gun restrictions, much to the chagrin of anti-Second Amendment people, who claim that the ban inhibits violent criminals from murdering other people. That might come as news to people who live in D.C. because as Republican Congressman Mark Edward Souder of Indiana pointed out, “For the 14th time in 15 years, they have the murder capital of the world title. At some point you say, ‘This isn’t working.’”

One basic problem with the anti-Second Amendment crowd’s argument, of course, is that violent criminals have as much respect for gun-control laws as they do for laws against murder, rape, and robbery. In other words, if a person is going to murder another person, it’s unlikely he’s going to say to himself, “Oh, my gosh, I’m going to have to kill him with a knife instead of a gun because possessing a gun in D.C. is illegal” (Duh!)

So, the practical effect of D.C.’s gun-control law is not to inhibit murderers from killing others but rather to deny peaceful and law-abiding people the means to defend themselves from those murderers. It’s just another example of how the federal government makes things worse with its attempts to resolve a social problem with infringements on liberty.

There are two good ways to reduce violent crime in D.C. One is to repeal all gun restrictions because there’s nothing better to dissuade a violent criminal than the prospect that his intended victim or those around him will shoot the criminal dead. The other way is to end another big loser of a federal program — the much-vaunted and much-failed war on drugs, which is at the root of much of violence in D.C. and elsewhere.

September 16, 2004

In March 2003 I wrote a series of articles entitled “Obedience to Orders,” which generated a firestorm of controversy, especially from cadets at West Point and a Pentagon brass but also, ironically, from a top official in the alumni office of Virginia Military Institute.

The thrust of the article was that VMI (my alma mater) produced a higher caliber of officer than the professional academies because, generally speaking, VMI officers, having been trained as citizen soldiers, would be more likely to exercise independence of mind than the professional soldiers, who would be more likely to blindly obey orders. The article focused specifically on the subject of torture of POWs and was written a year before the Abu Ghraib torture, rape, sex abuse, and murder scandal erupted into public view.

Unfortunately, ever since Abu Ghraib the response of Pentagon officials has been sham investigations whose design has obviously been to confuse, cover-up, and whitewash the scandal, with the primary intent obviously being to protect high military officers and executive branch officials from responsibility. These Pentagon officials are obviously operating under a misguided sense of loyalty that unfortunately characterizes all too many military officials — a sense that by covering up wrongdoing, they are doing themselves, the military, and the nation a great patriotic service.

Unfortunately, the response of military officers outside the Pentagon to the sham investigations, cover-up, and whitewashing has, by and large, been silence. Perhaps this is not surprising, for every officer knows that to take a public stand against military wrongdoing, especially when it leads to the top, entails the possibility of ostracism and denial of promotion.

However, not all U.S. officers are guilty of such moral or political spinelessness. Recently eight retired military generals and admirals recently publicly called on the president to appoint an independent commission to investigate the Abu Ghraib scandal (something that The Future of Freedom Foundation has been calling for). (See Letter to the president.)

These officers seem to be recognizing that neither the Pentagon, the Congress, nor the president can be trusted to really uncover the truth behind the Abu Ghraib scandal and that all the congressional hearings and military investigations are nothing more than smokescreens designed to make it look that something is being done. These officers seem to be recognizing that only a truly independent commission can be trusted to seek the truth, no matter how high it might lead.

The following are the names of the admirals and generals who signed their names to the letter to President Bush requesting the appointment of the independent commission. Yes, it’s true that they are now retired and therefore are not risking promotion, but their public request for an independent commission to fully investigate the scandal is a model of what every active-duty officer should also be doing. I was able to determine the college from which only three of the officers graduated:

Rear Admiral John D. Hutson (ret.)
(Michigan State University)

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar (ret.)
(Tufts University—ROTC)

Gen. David Brahms (ret.)

Maj. Gen. John Fugh (ret.)

Vice Adm. Lee Gunn (ret.)

Gen. James Cullen (ret.)

Gen. Robert Gard (ret.)

Gen. Richard Omeara (ret.)

September 15, 2004

Upholding a three-judge panel’s ruling in the Zacharias Moussaoui case, the full Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals purportedly ruled in favor of Moussaoui by upholding his right to question witnesses in the government’s custody for use at his trial.

Actually, the ruling is a big win for the government, as Attorney General John Ashcroft noted.

Why does Ashcroft consider the ruling a victory?

Because the Court prohibited Moussaoui (or his attorneys) from summoning the witnesses to his trial so that the jury could see them (or via videotaped deposition which would accomplish the same thing), in direct violation of the Sixth Amendment guarantee of compulsory process of witnesses.

Instead, in the much-vaunted name of “national security,” the Court limited Moussaoui (or his attorneys) to some silly compromise involving answers to written questions that the government will submit in secret to the witnesses, perhaps after threatening them with more torture (including water-boarding), rape, sex abuse, or even murder.

Meanwhile, while the Fourth Circuit was emasculating the Sixth Amendment in an opinion that was heavily redacted for “national-security” concerns, Russian President Vladamir Putin was proposing a restructuring of Russia’s political system to provide him with more powers to wage the war on terrorism.

September 14, 2004

Russian President Vladamir Putin’s response to the terrorist attack that killed hundreds of school children is to propose political reforms that would centralize and increase the power of the president in order to help him more effectively wage the war on terrorism.

My hunch is that most Americans are going to see through the sham and quickly recognize that what Putin is actually doing is capitalizing on the terrorist attack as a way to increase and centralize his power. For example, a New York Times editorial today, “Russia’s Lurch Backward,” makes that observation:

“Faced with the most serious crisis of his presidency, Vladamir Putin has yielded to his darkest instincts. Russia’s stumbling security services clearly need to be revitalized to fight terrorism. Mr. Putin, however, is using Beslan’s tragedy as an excuse for suffocating the last vestiges of Yeltsin-era democracy. Yesterday, evoking Russia’s long history of an autocratic concentration of power, Mr. Putin called for legislation to end the popular election of regional governors and voting in parliamentary districts in favor of slates selected by national party leaders, who are more likely to bend to presidential whims. These chilling proposals have no obvious relevance to the terrorist attacks. By exploiting the nation’s grief, they merely advance Mr. Putin’s antidemocratic agenda.”

I also predict, however, that the average Russian will be as unable to recognize what Putin is doing as the average American has been unable to recognize how President Bush has capitalized on the September 11 terrorist attack to win enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act, monitor and spy on Americans, suppress antiwar dissent, and arrest and indefinitely detain both foreigners and citizens, denying them access to counsel, due process of law, habeas corpus, the right to a jury trial, and the other guarantees provided in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It’s always easy to recognize and criticize the wrongdoing and infringements on freedom of foreign regimes. It’s much more difficult to do so with one’s own regime.

September 13, 2004

We can now add another perverse consequence to the 12 years of brutal sanctions imposed by the U.S. government and the UN against the Iraqi people during the 1990s. There were, of course, the hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraqi children, which were a primary factor that motivated the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. But now we learn that the sanctions caused the Iraqi people to become as dependent on government welfare as the American people have become on U.S. welfare.

According to the New York Times, the sanctions caused Saddam Hussein to impose a system of food rationing, which only made the Iraqi people more dependent on Saddam. This was, of course, contrary to the intent of the sanctions, which U.S. officials had hoped would motivate the Iraqi people to oust Saddam Hussein from office.

Worse still, the Iraqi people are now displaying the same type of dependency on the “central government’s monthly gift of free food” that the Americans have developed with such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and free education at least since the Franklin Roosevelt era. In fact, some U.S. officials are even upset over the fact that Iraqis, like Americans, are now seeing the free food as a right and are even calling for an expansion of this welfare-state program. Notice that the NYT could have easily been talking about Americans in its description of the problem:

“Even among those who are well-off, food rations have come to be regarded as an entitlement and — to the chagrin of senior economic officials and their American advisers — people want the list of free items expanded. ‘We can’t live without the ration,’ said Hassina Hasoon, a bent, 80-year-old woman, her face beatific in a swaddling of black and white cloths, as she picked up bags of wheat flour in the impoverished Washash neighborhood of central Baghdad. In her three-generation household of eight, only one son can find occasional work, she said. ‘We totally depend on the ration for our food. We want them to add meat and chicken to the list.’ Maher Ali Oraibi, 45, who was visiting the same depot said: ‘If they stop the food ration then food prices will go sky high and there will be war in the streets. Don’t let them stop this program, for I assure you, people will die.’

Sky-high prices! War on the streets! People will die! You know, just like if we repealed Social Security.

With all the criticisms that U.S. officials have leveled against their former close friend and ally Saddam Hussein, no one can deny that U.S. officials and Iraqi officials, both past and present, share at least one important trait in common — their unswerving allegiance to the principles of the socialistic welfare state and the fear and dependency that it engenders among the citizenry.

September 11, 2004

Well, well, it turns out that not only has the CIA played a central role in the torture and disappearance of “ghost detainees” in Iraq, it has also refused to cooperate with official investigations into such war crimes. Perhaps such intentional, deliberate, and knowing misconduct will cause the American people to finally realize how powerful the secret, dark rot at the center of the empire has become.

We can only hope that one of these days, the CIA files on what it has done to people all over the world will be opened — well, at least those that haven’t been destroyed. The American people living at that time are going to be very, very stunned at what was secretly done in their name and with the secret monies given to the CIA.

The CIA’s response will undoubtedly be, “Hey, they vested us with the power and they didn’t want to know what we doing. It’s not our fault.”

Maybe, just maybe, if the Congress or the American people succeed in requiring the CIA to open its files on the “ghost detainees,” they can also succeed in requiring the CIA to open its files on the John Kennedy assassination, which took place some four decades ago.

Maybe, just maybe, the American people living at that time will do what needs to be done in the name of morality, justice, freedom, law, and the American way of life: abolish the CIA (and here), as some members of Congress are now wisely proposing.

September 10, 2004

A New York Times op-ed yesterday entitled “Give the Chechens a Land of Their Own” by Harvard professor Richard Pipes provides a perfect example of the blind spot from which so many Americans suffer when analyzing U.S. foreign policy and the policies of other nations.

Pipes argues that the terrorists who attacked the Russian school building were motivated by anger and hatred against Russian policy against Chechnya and, therefore, to end such terrorism, Russian officials need to reevaluate and change their foreign policy on Chechnya.

On the other hand, Pipes innocently claims,

“The attacks on New York and the Pentagon were unprovoked and had no specific objective. Rather, they were part of a general assault of Islamic extremists bent on destroying non-Islamic civilizations. As such, America’s war with Al Qaeda is non-negotiable. But the Chechens do not seek to destroy Russia — thus there is always an opportunity for compromise.”

What nonsense! Pipe is guilty of the same Ostrich-like thinking that has gripped the minds of all too many U.S. officials — thinking that enables them to block out of their minds the brutal and deadly consequences of U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, even while freely doling out advice to other countries to revise and reform their foreign policies.

Sure, Mr. Pipes, those terrorists committed suicide and murder in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center because they want to destroy Wal-Mart, free enterprise, and rock and roll. And I suppose you’re going to tell us that they absolutely loved or were indifferent to the U.S. government’s support of the Shah of Iran and the Saddam Hussein, its furnishing of weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein, the Persian Gulf intervention that killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and intentionally targeted the water and sewage treatment facilities of the Iraqi people, the more than a decade of sanctions against Iraq that callously contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi children, the arrogant stationing of U.S. troops on Islamic holy lands, the illegal “no-fly zones” over Iraq that killed even more Iraqis, and then the illegal and unconstitutional invasion and war of aggression against Iraq that has killed 10,000-30,000 more innocent Iraqis, innocent in the sense that Iraqis who had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

If only Pipes and others could (or would) recognize the perverse consequences of U.S. foreign policy as clearly as they recognize the perverse consequences of the foreign policies of other countries, we’d get this country back on track post haste.

September 9, 2004

Most of the American media are focusing on the fact that more than 1,000 American soldiers have now been killed in the invasion and war of aggression against Iraq. These deaths have, of course, caused untold pain and suffering for the parents, spouses, children, and friends of those 1,000-plus American men and women who have died in a worthless and senseless cause — the replacement of an ex-U.S.-approved dictator with a new U.S-approved dictator.

It is important, however, from a moral standpoint that we not forget the 10,000-30,000 innocent Iraqi people who have died as a result of the illegal and unconstitutional invasion and war of aggression against their country. Even though the Pentagon doesn’t count those deaths because they’re considered only “foreign casualties of war,” the fact is that the parents, spouses, children, and friends of the Iraqi dead are suffering just as much pain as Americans do when their friends and loved ones die. We should also keep in mind that every single one of the Iraqi dead were as innocent as the victims of 9/11 were — that is, that they had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks or even the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and yet they died as a direct U.S. retaliatory consequence of those attacks.

It is also important, from a pragmatic standpoint, that we not forget that the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the 9/11 attacks were motivated in part by the anger and hatred arising from the callous U.S. killing of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis throughout the 1990s. For the thirst for vengeance arising from the killing of innocent people afflicts not only Americans but also others around the world.

September 8, 2004

Advocates of the “war on terrorism” and the conquest of Iraq and the war on poverty and the war on drugs and the war on illiteracy will undoubtedly refuse to take individual responsibility for the serious economic crisis that might well arise from the uncontrolled government spending to fund all these pet socialist, empire, and interventionist government programs.

Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal deficit will hit a record $422 billion this year. That means that the federal government will spend $422 billion more than what it takes in in taxes.

How does it perform this magic feat? By borrowing it. How will it pay back all that debt? By raising taxes directly through income taxation or indirectly through inflationary debasement of the currency, i.e., printing the money to pay off the debt, thereby making everybody’s money and income worth less.

Here’s my prediction: If all this uncontrolled government spending results in a severe economic crisis, just as uncontrolled government spending brought down the Soviet Union (which conservatives never cease to remind us), I predict that the pro-war advocates will refuse to take personal responsibility for the plight into which they have plunged our nation. Instead, I predict that they will blame “free enterprise” or “unseen forces” or “speculators” or “terrorists” or whatever. And this denial of responsibility will take place despite the fact that many of the pro-war advocates, especially on the conservative side, love to preach the importance of “fiscal responsibility” and “personal responsibility” on their websites, in their articles, and on their stationery.

September 7, 2004

Presidential candidate John Kerry has what he considers is a brilliant plan for the occupation of Iraq — substitute foreigner troops for American troops so that foreign soldiers will be doing the dying rather than American soldiers. Wow, what a novel — and moral — solution! Let’s just make foreigners pay for the mistakes of U.S. politicians, including President Bush and presidential hopeful John Kerry, and then everything will be hunky dory.

Unfortunately, Kerry hasn’t explained how he would have persuaded foreign rulers to sacrifice their own citizens for the sake of the U.S. empire and the mistakes of U.S. politicians. Perhaps he would have used the time-honored method that Bush used to garner international support for the war — bribery or, as it is more commonly known, foreign aid.

Let’s not forget that as wrong as President Bush was in invading and waging a war of aggression against a sovereign and independent country that had not attacked the United States, Bush is absolutely right in suggesting that Kerry’s position is no better. By blindly delegating the power to declare war on Iraq to the president with full knowledge that that solemn responsibility lay with Congress, Kerry violated his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. Thus, it was Kerry’s political cowardice that emboldened Bush to wage a war that violated not only the Constitution but also the principles set forth at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal at the end of World War II.

Meanwhile, MNSBC is reporting that worldwide terrorism deaths are on the rise. No doubt that both Bush and Kerry will claim that it’s all rooted in hatred for America’s freedom and values rather than in the invasion and occupation of Iraq and other U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Maybe that’s why Bush wants to maintain the occupation of Iraq for the indefinite future while Kerry just announced that he’ll keep it going for at least a few more years. Meanwhile — surprise, surprise — the power of the federal government over our lives and fortunes continues to increase and increase and increase, a phenomenon that is unlikely to displease either Bush or Kerry.

September 6, 2004

Another public-school success story occurred last week in our nation’s capital, perhaps the premier socialistic welfare state “model city” in America. More than 900 students were turned away when they arrived at schools because school administrators didn’t have their schedules ready.

Incoming Superintendent Clifford Janey was outraged over the matter: “For a school not to be ready with their master schedules beyond the eleventh hour is more than unacceptable. This day may need to be made up.” A high school principal and an assistant superintendent were even fired over the incident!

Unfortunately, Superintendent Janey might have to keep himself after school for some remedial lessons in the U.S. Constitution because he added that the students had been denied their constitutional right to an education.

Whoops! Superintendent Janey, how in the world did you arrive at that conclusion? For one thing, the word “education” isn’t even in the Constitution. For another, the Constitution doesn’t give rights—it simply prohibits government from interfering with preexisting rights. Report to detention when the final bell rings!

September 4, 2004

A New York City judge has ordered the release of hundreds of anti-Bush protesters, even going so far as to hold city officials in contempt of court. It appears that the cops thought they were in Iraq, where people are now free and where the cops detain people indefinitely without trial without having to answer to anyone. Well, the New York cops decided to do the same thing to anti-Bush protesters in New York.

Americans were denied lawyers (just like Saddam, Gitmo, and Abu Ghraib) and held in nasty cells that had oil and grease spread all over the floor. Many of the detainees weren’t even protesters, having been swept up in the police dragnet, just like in Iraq. One guy was a CEO of a puppet theater who, along with his friend, were jailed for nothing. Two middle-aged women who made the mistake of shopping at the Gap were also jailed for no reason. Another young woman was taken into custody as she was returning from work at a New York publishing house. Oh well, at least they weren’t raped, tortured, sexually abused, or killed.

Do you see what can happen when people begin to believe government propaganda with respect to the meaning of the term “freedom” in Iraq? Government officials here at home begin bringing “freedom” to Americans, in the form of indefinite detentions, arbitrary searches and seizures, denial of due process, right to counsel, and habeas corpus. All we need now is gun confiscation, shutting down of the critical press, suspension of elections, and martial law, and Iraqi “freedom” will be ours as well.

September 3, 2004

Good news out of Iraq! It appears that the U.S. occupation of Iraq might be helping Iraqis to better understand the rights and guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and especially the Second Amendment — perhaps even better than many Americans.

Keep in mind that many Americans, including many members of the NRA, believe that the purpose of gun ownership is to hunt deer and shoot burglars. Not so the Iraqis. They are learning what the Framers knew — that the real purpose of gun ownership is to serve as a check against tyranny.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Sadr’s aides say it is unreasonable to expect fighters to give up their rifles because these are privately owned.” Sheik Kareem al-Bakhabi, a tribal leader in Sadr City, asked a pointed question: “Don’t most families in America keep a weapon?”

Obviously rejecting the shooting-deer-and-burglars justification for gun ownership, Bakhabi summed up the entire underlying rationale behind the right to keep and bear arms: “If we gave our rocket-propelled grenades to the government but then they broke their promises, we couldn’t get them back again.”

Hey, too bad we have immigration controls keeping all those Iraqis we were so concerned about liberating from coming into our country. The Iraqi insurgents could give us a real-life perspective about the importance of gun rights in resisting tyranny.

September 2, 2004

Those who favor giving John Ashcroft, the Pentagon, and their respective minions the omnipotent power to arrest and execute terrorists without due process of law got another bucket of cold water splashed all over them yesterday.

Remember what is now becoming known as the infamous Detroit terrorism cases, where the Justice Department crowed loudly and proudly about how they were bringing terrorists to bay? You’ll recall that a Detroit jury acquitted one of the defendants of terrorism. (Lucky for that defendant, the Pentagon didn’t take control over the case, as they have with Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, and Ali Saleh al-Marri because that guy would still be in the brig, if not dead.) Yesterday, the Justice Department asked the presiding judge in the Detroit terrorism cases to toss out the convictions of the three men who were convicted during that trial. According to Reuters, “The decision, disclosed in a Justice Department filing late on Tuesday, abandons the main charge in the first major terror-related trial after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.” What a disgrace. And guess why they’re having to do that. Because Justice Department attorneys knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately broke the law — and conspired to break the law (so much for those who pooh-pooh conspiracy theories) — by withholding critically favorable evidence from both the judge and the people they were accusing of terrorism. In other words, getting a conviction for terrorism in the “war on terrorism” was so important it didn’t matter if innocent people were the ones convicted. Of course, this comes on the heels of the Pentagon’s and Justice Department’s wrongful and baseless terrorism accusation against Army Captain James Yee and Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield, for which they’ve had to eat crow as well. And while we’re on the subject of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to break the law, let’s not forget that that’s exactly what the Justice Department did in the Randy Weaver/Ruby Ridge trial (here and here), where they were wrongfully attempting to secure the Weaver’s conviction, an attempt that the jury rejected when they acquitted Weaver. The next time some Republican tells you that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are riddled with 19th-century, horse-and-buggy technicalities that let guilty people go free, remind him that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the supreme law of the land that protect the innocent from overzealous and dishonest government officials who are more interested in scoring political points than they are in securing justice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

I must admit that watching the Republican convention is highly painful, given the fact that Republicans love to talk like libertarians with respect to economic issues but, in fact, enthusiastically embrace and support every socialist program that comes down the pike and all the out-of-control government spending (and taxation) that comes with it.

You know what I mean, right? The speeches that contain glowing platitudes about free enterprise, compassion, and charity but omit any reference to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schooling, the IRS, and the DEA, not to mention the repatriation of Cuban refugees into communist tyranny, economic embargoes that kill or impoverish citizens of other countries, and wars of aggression that kill and maim multitudes of innocent people. In fact, it’s as if the Republican Party is a giant Frankenstein who, with outstretched arms, is roaming the earth doing his dirty deeds while constantly mumbling under his breath the old 1950s bromide, “Frei entupris, privat propty, limted govment.” Unfortunately, the Democrat Party, with its cannibalistic economic policies and its muzzling of war opponents, isn’t any better. In fact, those people bring to mind the movie “Night of the Living Dead.”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.